Govt backs down over ride-sharing ban after public backlash

Published On: November 27, 2019 07:40 AM NPT By: Sujita Pradhan

KATHMANDU, Nov 27: The government has once again backed away from a decision to crack down on ride-sharing, following widespread public criticism. 

Nearly a week after issuing an official notice banning the use of private vehicles for paying passengers, the Department of Transportation Management (DoTM) has decided to allow ride-sharing operations like Tootle and Pathao to carry on as usual until such time as they are brought under a new legal ambit.

DoTM officials confirmed to Republica that they will take a lenient approach to ride-sharing until the current law is rewritten or amended. This law bans private vehicles from providing rides to paying passengers. 

The department’s decision to reconsider its crackdown follows a public backlash against a recent notice it issued warning of action against the commercial use of vehicles registered for private purposes. 

The notice released on November 19 was apparently aimed at ride-sharing operators like Tootle and Pathao, which have become popular in the capital city. 

This is the second time the department has been forced to take its hands off ride-sharing. Back in January also, it was forced to back off from a similar attempt after Prime Minister KP Oli intervened and instructed DoTM to leave ride-sharing alone. 

There has been intense public pressure against the authorities who have been accused of acting at the behest of taxi cab operators in banning ride sharing. 

“Currently, there is no rule or policy governing ride-hailing services,” said Gagan Bahadur Hamal, DoTM director general. 

According to government officials, a bill to amend the relevant act will be tabled in parliament during the winter session. The amendment bill is expected to bring ride-sharing under the legal ambit. 

“This type of transport service has now become essential for members of the public. Keeping this in mind, we will come up with a new policy that takes into consideration all factors including safety and insurance,” said Hamal, adding that they will also hold consultations with stakeholders. 

The Motor Vehicles and Transportation Management Act, 1993, which states that private motor vehicles cannot be used for public transport services, makes ride-sharing illegal. However, representatives of companies that run ride-sharing operations say the law has become obsolete and it only discourages business innovation.

They also hailed the recent decision of the authorities to allow ride-sharing without any hindrance. 

“Yesterday, we had a meeting with the director general of DoTM and the line minister and I was later informed informally that ride-hailing services will be allowed to operate without let or hindrance,” said Asheem Man Singh Basnyat, regional director of Pathao. 

They have also received a commitment that the traffic police will not take action against anyone engaged in ride-sharing, he added.

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